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Movie Review: Truth or Dare? (spoilers!)

Tuesdays are sacred.  Why?  Because movie theaters offer discounted tickets on Tuesdays.  I mean, what’s better than chilling at the movie for a few hours when you’ve only payed $5 to get in?  Let me answer that for you: nothing.

And, if we’re being honest, I really am glad I only paid $5 for this movie.

It wasn’t my new favorite teen horror movie.  Though, if we’re being truthful, I’m not sure I have a favorite teen horror movie…unless we’re counting Joss Whedon’s Cabin in the Woods though I consider that more horror satire than a straight up teen horror movie.

I didn’t have high expectations going into this movie.  I hadn’t even seen a trailer for it beforehand–which is weird, since I gobble up movie trailers like I do popcorn.  But my friend wanted a movie, and we hadn’t seen this one yet, so last night, we found ourselves at the lovely Alamo Drafthouse enjoying drinks, loaded fries…and that’s it, really.

Because the movie wasn’t that great.  The premise, once I realized what it was, made me think of what Jumanji‘s awkward emo teen years would have been like, if games aged like people: a game goes bad, teenage angst, demons, Spring Break, and more angst.   That being said, I did really like the part about the demon possessing a concept, an idea.  That really got my mind working, and it was a nice break from other things demons seem particularly interested in possessing: small children, dolls–ok, anything childhood related, really.  And yes, the game Truth or Dare is a game from my childhood, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch, but I loved the idea of possessing a concept.  It made me think back to the idea of thoughts as disease: spreading, growing, mutating, and nearly impossible to kill once they had.

That seemed to be the only thing going for the movie though.  Aside from the acting, which really wasn’t that bad, all things considered.

My main problems with the movie centered around the, for lack of a better term, something I’m calling the “scare element.”  Tropes you find in horror movies designed explicitly to garner a scare-centric reaction from the audience, whether fear, cringing, disgust, what have you.  People standing still as the camera pans passed?  Loud banging at quiet moments?   Chilling grins reminiscent of the Joker?  Those are “scare elements” to me, because, well, they’re scary.

This movie was laden with them, as an horror movie should be, but the type used, and how they were executed got to me as a viewer.  To the point where I was just…done.  You know when you reach that point where you’re so tired, you either cry or laugh?  It was like that, only instead of crying vs. laughing, we had fearing vs. laughing.  And laughing won out hard.

The religious element (which I’ve never really understood as scary, or a scare element, but according to others, I’m in the minority on that front), designed to establish an origin for the horror, seemed unnecessary.  Why have the story start in a Catholic convent?  What did the religious element add?  None that I saw–but religion and horror seem to go hand-in-hand in Hollywood, especially when you’re dealing with demons.  Can’t have demons without nuns, I suppose.

Another scare element that threw me was the use of squeamishness.  Lucy Hale’s character, Olivia, at one point, has her hand broken by a hammer.  Another guy jams a pen into his eye and throws himself into a door frame to drive it in deeper.  These scares, to me, felt over the top.  Designed to get a sickly gagging reaction from the audience.  A cheap scare, almost.  Not a scare I was interested in experiencing because I felt like they could have done better and were simply copping out.

Another cop-out was character development.  As a writer, I’m more focused on the character.  I want to see myself in these people, to find something that connects us, and to then root for them because of it.  I want them to succeed.  Here, though, I wasn’t really rooting for anyone.  None of the characters felt real, more like caricature, cardboard-cutouts of stereotypical teenagers.

The only instance, maybe, of character development I saw (if we can call it development and not regression, but that’s another topic for another day) centered around how the movie ended, the last scare element of the film.  Once again, it felt like a cop-out.  That they’d painted themselves into such a helpless corner, this was the only option left to our plucky survivalists and the writers behind them.  But it wasn’t.  All they had to do was order the demon to do something they knew it couldn’t…like “I dare you to end the game,” for example.  It would have taken planning, cunning, and courage (I guess Olivia isn’t a Gryffindor), but they could have managed.  They had even set it up so that after Olivia and Markie both choose truth, then the demon would have to choose dare.  Game, set, and match.  But that’s not what happened.  Instead, YouTube happened.   The ending, then, after building up our heroine to be an altruistic, moral person fell flat and forced.

Ok, all that being said, I’m happy this movie exists.  Why, you might ask?  Because it’s creative.  It’s a story.  It’s someone, somewhere, going: “Hey, I’ve got an idea,” and working to bring it to life.  Did I like it?  No.  But that’s fine.  Because someone else may love it.  And if authors, directors, creators didn’t take a chance on things, we’d never find out what stirs our blood and gets our hearts pumping.  So congrats to everyone connected with the film: you made something.  And that’s so inspiring.

 

First Thoughts: Artemis by Andy Weir

Like many others, I’m sure, I enjoyed The Martian (both the book and the movie) by Andy Weir.  I liked it more than I thought I would, actually, given that there seemed to be a distressingly large amount of science and math involved in the narrative plot.

I mean, the story revolves around Mark Watney sciencing his way to survival.

As an English person (I mean, I write books for crying out loud!) the thought of such a densely science-filled story left me wondering if I could keep up.

Which I did.

And I’m thoroughly glad that I gave it a whirl.

My first impressions of Andy Weir’s latest book, Artemis, follow that same line of thinking: I have no idea about any of the science stuff I’m sure to find, but it’ll be ok.  Andy Weir does a fantastic job of describing science easily, without the jargon and stuffiness associated with jargon hindering the average reader.  I love that kind of writing: how accessible, how open it is.  It’s something I hope to be able to do, one day.

In the meantime, I plan on learning from published authors, so I’m excited to give Artemis a go.

But I digress.  The reason I’m writing this is to give my first impressions before I start in.

So, in a nutshell, here’s what I’m looking forward to:

  • The accessibility of the science-heavy components (more from a writer’s standpoint than a readers, but oh well, there you have it).
  • The heroine (she’s a smuggler, for crying out loud.  I always love bad-ass women doing bad-ass things).
  • The title (as a lover of mythology, anything named after the Greek goddess of the Hunt deserves rapt attention!).
  • Morally questionable motivations (it’s nice to be reminded that we’re all human here, and sometimes, crippling debt is all the motivation you need).
  • It’s a con/heist story.  On the moon.  On.  The.  MOON!

There we have it, ladies and gentlemen.  The five exciting reasons why I’m going to dive into this book.  I’ll let you know, once I’ve finished, what my final thoughts are–so stick around for those.  In the meantime, if you haven’t had a chance to see Artemis yet, check out the blurb on the back of the book:

“Jasmine Bashara never signed up to be a hero. She just wanted to get rich.

Not crazy, eccentric-billionaire rich, like many of the visitors to her hometown of Artemis, humanity’s first and only lunar colony. Just rich enough to move out of her coffin-sized apartment and eat something better than flavored algae. Rich enough to pay off a debt she’s owed for a long time.

So when a chance at a huge score finally comes her way, Jazz can’t say no. Sure, it requires her to graduate from small-time smuggler to full-on criminal mastermind. And it calls for a particular combination of cunning, technical skills, and large explosions—not to mention sheer brazen swagger. But Jazz has never run into a challenge her intellect can’t handle, and she figures she’s got the ‘swagger’ part down.

The trouble is, engineering the perfect crime is just the start of Jazz’s problems. Because her little heist is about to land her in the middle of a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself.

Trapped between competing forces, pursued by a killer and the law alike, even Jazz has to admit she’s in way over her head. She’ll have to hatch a truly spectacular scheme to have a chance at staying alive and saving her city.

Jazz is no hero, but she is a very good criminal.

That’ll have to do.

Propelled by its heroine’s wisecracking voice, set in a city that’s at once stunningly imagined and intimately familiar, and brimming over with clever problem-solving and heist-y fun, Artemis is another irresistible brew of science, suspense, and humor from #1 bestselling author Andy Weir.”

I’m sure it goes without mentioning, but the image is kindly used courtesy of Crown Publishing.

Inspiration: The Name of the Wind

If you haven’t read this book, drop everything and go buy it.

Seriously.

Stop reading.  Go.  Buy.  Read.

If you have read it, I hope you’ll share in my admiration.  The Name of the Wind captures every magical fantasy you’ve ever had.  You want dragon fights?  Check.  Enigmatic magical schools.  Done.  A bard/student/genius/sword-master/hero the likes of which the world doesn’t deserve?  Nailed it.

My cousin and my brother both recommended this book to me, which is how I stumbled across it.  I mean, when two of the biggest readers in my life sit me down and insist upon a book, you tend to listen.  And I did.  Thank God, I did.

From a young age, Kvothe (our bard/student/genius/sword-master/hero) learns about and becomes fascinated with the name of the wind.  Hence the title, in case you didn’t make that connection.  After hearing a story about a man summoning the wind to save his life, he becomes determined to learn the name for himself.

I love the concept of name invocation.  How the possession of a true name can give you power over the thing that is named.  I’d heard of the concept before, particularly in fairy stories (ahem, ahem Rumpelstiltskin), but this was the first time, that I could recall, where there was this air of power and mystery around knowing a concept’s name.  To me, reading this book, I felt like the name of the wind was smoke.  Something real but nearly impossible to catch.  Something you could glimpse, could see, but not something you could ever possess.  The wispy elusiveness of the wind’s name made sense–it is the wind, after all–and sparked in me my own fascination with name invocation.

So much so, that when it came time to write a psychic ability for my own heroine based on sound, I picked it.  Without hesitation.  I wanted my heroine to be able to compel obedience from simply a name.

The wispy, elusive aspect of knowing the wind’s name is something I’ll have to work on.  For my own writing, I picked fire as my element of choice.  Ghosts and fire seem to go hand in hand, and I hope to convey that wonderful sense of mystery about what the name of fire is in my writing.

I’ve got loads to go–I’m not Patrick Rothfuss–but I hope to one day incorporate a similar thrill when my heroine (hopefully!) learns the name of fire into my own works.

[And a very special shout-out to Marc Simonetti for the picture, titled The Name of the Wind also.  It’s such a wonderful work!]

Inspiration: The Mediator Series by Meg Cabot

I hadn’t noticed before, but I seem to like ghost stories.

But when you sit down and start wondering what inspiration fueled your own foray into paranormal fiction…and you realize just how many ghost stories you’ve encountered along the way…well, the evidence speaks for itself: I like ghost stories.

Did Meg Cabot’s The Mediator series start off my fascination for ghost stories?  I’m not sure–but it was definitely one of the first.  I still remember stumbling across these books in my school library.  Wedged between The Princess Diaries books were the colorful covers of Suze’s ghostly adventures.  I remember hesitating, because princesses weren’t really my thing.  Could I like an author who penned an impressive series around the Princess of Genovia?  I mean, I liked the Anne Hathaway/Julie Andrews gem (though I outwardly denied it because I had my tomboy reputation to uphold) but what if the books were different?  What if they were more foofy and frilly and my sensitive sensibilities couldn’t handle it?

Turns out, I had worried over nothing.  Suze doesn’t hold with conventional female stereotypes: she kicks butt, takes names, and still wrestles over the growing pains of girlhood.  I think that’s what sold me on this series when I read through Shadowland.  She helped people, she was tough, and yet she still debated about what to wear in the mornings.  Those characteristics juxtaposed together really hit home for me.

So much so that I devoured the entire series.  And I still think back to them, years later.  Meg Cabot managed to tie together a girlhood-coming-of-age story with the adrenaline-pumping adventure of a girl trying to help the recently departed with their unfinished business.

In my own writing, I want to make that connection.  My heroines are fighting ghosts–and some of those ghosts are terrifying and horrible.  But, and this is important for me to highlight in my work, my heroines are still 20-something, new-age girls.  They’re going to worry about boys, hairstyles, making friends, their friendships with each other, and finding their ways forward in life.  And while trying to help other people with their own hauntings.

So, as far as inspiration is concerned, that’s what I took away from The Mediator series.  All six books wonderfully highlighted the ghost-busting with the day-to-day life of a teenage girl.  And I think that it made for wonderful writing.  After all, you can’t have the supernatural without the natural with which to compare.

 

Perception

“A pocket watch. She bought a pocket watch and it killed her. And I thought how we died was bad.”

As far as apartments go, roommates Stella and Charlotte “Bronte” believe theirs to be just fine.  Sure, they hate taking the stairs up to the third floor, especially after grocery shopping.  And yes, the apartment staff could be a bit nicer.  But all things considered, it’s not a bad place to live.

Until the sudden chills begin, seizing them at inexplicable times.  Until Bronte starts to see shapes out of the corner of her eye and Stella begins to hear voices too close, sighs too near to be the culprit of paper-thin walls.

Century-old ghosts Oliver and Cyril have seen what happens to mortals forced, unknowingly, to spend time in their company.  Their perceptions change, allowing them to perceive the Otherworld.  A realm, they know, humans can only tolerate for so long before madness sets in.

Determined to save Bronte and Stella from the fate that befell their last haunting, Oliver and Cyril must find a way to keep the girls from perceiving the Otherworld.  But how are they to do it when they’re trapped in a normal apartment?  How long do they have before their forced proximity to the girls deepens their perceptions?

And why do they start to feel chills themselves?

Interested in reading more?  Check me out on Wattpad: @ElizaLainn.

 

 

And so it begins…

Welcome to the first blog post of my startlingly average website.  I hope to use this platform as a tool to share my work and engage with other creative people.  And, in the spirit of the new year, I hope to use it as motivation to write a little bit more.  Or, at least, to be more consistent in writing each and every day.  So bon voyage, carpe diem, and all that jazz fellow Internet Explorers!  Hope to see you further down the line.